Action-horror is a genre combo that’s both enthralling and underutilised, with “Shadow Master” arriving to add another standout entry to that surprisingly infrequent hybrid.
With writer-director Pearry Teo giving “Shadow Master” a foreboding, menacing mood, leading man D.Y. Sao and veterans of YouTube’s Martial Club orchestrate outstanding fight scenes that wrap the action styles of numerous territories into one, not the least of which being Hong Kong-inspired and absolutely amazing in the delivery “Shadow Master” makes of it!
D.Y. Sao portrays the movie’s reluctant hero An Voaen, with Layton Matthews playing police detective Russells, who interrogates him in the film’s wrap-around narrative.
Craig Ng plays An Voaen’s ally Boon-Nam, with Anna Harr in the role of Dewitt and Luciana Faulhaber playing Janett.
Eric Gay Jr. portrays Janett’s son Benison, while writer-director Pearry Teo also portrays the deity Hanuman, with Daniel Mah and Brian Le of YouTube’s Martial Club respectively appearing in the roles of Gabriel and Samael.
Former gang member An Voaen wants to leave violence and fighting behind, taking a job as a night watchman at an old hospital that now serves as a homeless shelter. An Voaen’s efforts to avoid fighting don’t last long…
When he hears reports of children being abducted from the hospital, An Voaen fights the arriving gang one dark night and is near-fatally stabbed.
He then finds himself in the ethereal presence of the deity Hanuman, who offers to save his life in exchange for An Voaen becoming his vessel on Earth.
Both An Voaen’s fighting skills and the supernatural power of Hanuman are things he will need on his side for the unfolding battle, in which the Hanuman-powered An Voaen must stop Mephisto and the Four Horsemen from bringing about the end of the world.
Shadow Master is Dark and Loopy
The moody, non-linear story of “Shadow Master” makes the movie’s November release date feel almost like a missed opportunity to capitalize on the Halloween season window.
The vibe of Kevin Tancheron’s 2010’s short “Mortal Kombat: Rebirth” permeates “Shadow Master”, right down to the color scheme, police interrogation framing device, and horror movie atmosphere. 2022’s ideal, martial arts-based Halloween flick might have missed the window by a week, but “Shadow Master” still does a fine job of keeping viewers on their toes with the tension of Pearry’s deft direction.
A Blend of Action Styles
October tardiness or not, “Shadow Master” is a fun concoction of different styles of action with its Hong Kong, Thai, and Indonesian influences in its many fight scenes.
As An Voaen, D.Y. Sao is a hurricane of kicks and elbows to the 11th power. Owing to the movie’s dark tone and shuffled flashbacks, many of the fight scenes have an almost slasher-movie like build-up and power, An Voaen himself is all but an involuntary Michael Myers with fists of fury once Hanuman co-opts him into his mission. And speaking of which…
D.Y. Sao Wows with Cambodian Martial Arts!
Martial arts lovers know the joy and thrill of seeing a seldom cinematically-recognized discipline brought to life on screen! Well, D.Y. Sao’s expertise in the Cambodian combat art of Bokator amps up the incredible action scenes of “Shadow Master” to the max.
The horror-esque tone of the movie admittedly makes the action as non-traditional as it is amazing, given the primal survival instinct that takes over onscreen for both An Voaen and his enemies. Still, the battles in the hallways and corridors of “Shadow Master” are some of the best of the year, and there’s no doubt which one takes the crown here.
Martial Club Drop in for the Fun!
In Sao overseeing the fight choreography of “Shadow Master” with the Martial Club luminaries, Martial Club veteran Brian Le is the villainous show-stopper as the henchman Samael.
With the overt action-horror overtones of the movie and the preceding action scenes, An Voaen’s smackdown with Samael is the centerpiece of “Shadow Master” by a long shot.
Sao and Le are allowed far more of an extended timeframe to really face-off in a satisfying showdown, and naturally, Le’s Martial Club roots bring the Hong Kong influences of “Shadow Master” to the fore.
When people talk about individual fight scenes that are worth the entire movie by themselves, Sao and Le’s final battle in “Shadow Master” is one specimen that should be spearheading that conversation.
“Shadow Master” is an action-horror fan’s paradise, and a martial art fanatic’s dream come true with the onscreen ambassador for Cambodian martial arts D.Y. Sao embodies.
The story admittedly takes a minute to get the table set, but “Shadow Master” thrills as an eerie, supernatural horror movie, and a Hong Kong action movie made in the states.
With 2022 now three for three on that very gimmick with the added entries of “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday”, “Shadow Master” demands that trend continue into the foreseeable future!
- The movie was produced by Prachya Pinkeaw, well-known as director of “Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior” and the “Tom Yum Goong” films.
- Y. Sao is an exponent of different forms of Kung Fu, Wushu, Kickboxing, and Bokator. He was also on the U.S. National Wushu Team.
- Both D.Y. Sao and Daniel Mah served as stunt men on “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Everything Everywhere All At Once”.
- Pearry Tao’s other movies as director include “The Evil Inside”, “Ghost Hunters”, “The Assent”, “Methuselah”, and “Fast Vengeance”. Tao also directed the short film “Tekken: Reload”, which featured Cung Le as Marshall Law (reprising his role from the 2010 “Tekken” movie) and Shannon Lee as The Dragon Lady.
- Y. Sao also previously worked with Pearry Tao on “Fast Vengeance”.